In an opinion piece for The Tennessee Star, Southeastern Legal Foundation’s Braden Boucek explains that cities all over the country are strongarming people into paying for public infrastructure before they will perform basic service like granting a building permit. It is both irresponsible governance and unconstitutional.
If you want to build a house, obviously you have to pay the owner for the land. Otherwise, it is theft. Property rights are the bedrock of a civil society. Just read the Constitution. Personal property rights are guaranteed even against the government by the Fifth Amendment.
If John Smith wants to build a house on land owned by Jane Doe, he purchases the land from her. But what happens when a local government wants to build a road or sidewalk across someone’s property? Unlike John Smith, the government can make Jane Doe sell, but the government must still pay fair value.
Unfortunately for taxpaying property owners, “paying people’s a problem for government. Cities are broke. With budgetary restraint out of the question, what is a government supposed to do when it wants your property?
Instead of responsible budgeting, governments have gotten creative. Cities strongarm people into paying for public infrastructure before they will perform basic services. It’s not responsible governance, but it avoids hard fiscal choices.
Nashville is doing just that with its law that forces private property owners to surrender both land and money to build sidewalks in exchange for permits. It did just that to SLF’s clients and we sued to protect their rights.
There is no question that if Nashville demanded property outright instead of bargaining with permits, it would have had to pay. But Nashville didn’t want to pay, so it made a threat: give us your land and money or you won’t get the permits you need to build a home.
Read the full article at The Tennessee Star.